09 Apr 2021
The keluak fruit is highly toxic when consumed directly, and needs to be properly tended to for safe consumption.
Keluak fruit, also known also as kepayang or pangi in Malaysia, is the hard fruit of the keluak tree. Most popularly used in the Nyonya dish ayam keluak, it imparts a smoky, nutty flavour that counters well with spicy preparations. This fruit is also highly toxic, as it contains hydrogen cyanide. When consumed directly, it causes vertigo and confusion at best (hence the term ‘mabuk kepayang’), and is fatal at worst.
But like many other potentially dangerous edibles—remember that many of our favourite vegetables like tomatoes are in the notorious nightshade family!—there are ways to safely prepare them for consumption. Many families have their own tried-and-true methods of preparing keluak, and many sellers provide the fruit ready for use. What follows is our own preferred method for preparing untreated keluak.
Do note that it takes about a week for keluak to be ready for cooking and eating, so plan accordingly.
Important note: Do not feed leftovers to animals, compost the shells, or water plants with the soaking liquid, as the lingering hydrogen cyanide may poison them. Pour liquids down the sink and solids into general trash.
Malay food without meat? Yes, please!
Raising a stink
Shaken, not stirred